In the House: Assessing the DeVos-tation

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference. / Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference. / Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons

By Connor Hamill, political columnist

The nomination of Betsy DeVos as our nation’s Secretary of Education was historic. Not only did Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote, but her appointment was one of the most contested in United States history. Most people are more familiar with the many gaffes that DeVos made during her hearing, such as her unfamiliarity with the progress vs. proficiency debate in education, her ignorance of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and perhaps most famous of all, her support for guns in schools “to protect from potential grizzlies.”

Ultimately, DeVos was confirmed by the Senate. She has been an afterthought on the minds of the people ever since then. But let’s take a look at what DeVos has managed to accomplish so far with her illustrious tenure.

For starters, DeVos admitted that she would be perfectly O.K. if the Education Department itself was abolished. In an interview, DeVos said, “It would be fine with me to have myself worked out of a job, but I’m not sure that—I’m not sure that there will be a champion movement in Congress to do that.”

Trust me, we’d all love to see her out of a job, minus the whole abolished Education Department bit. That part, we want to keep. Thankfully though, even DeVos recognizes that abolishing the Education Department is a far-fetched fantasy, so it’s comforting to know that deep down, there’s a semi-rational person making decisions that affect the American school system.

But DeVos was quickly dropped a whole letter grade from semi-rational to coward after the Trump administration rolled back transgender student protections.

DeVos was originally opposed to the idea, fearing that this could potentially harm transgender students. According to the New York Times, she even released a statement saying she considered it “a moral obligation for every school in America to protect all students from discrimination, bullying and harassment.”

But then Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered DeVos a choice: Go along with the move, or resign. She went along with the move.

On the bright side, at least we now know that the job DeVos said she’s fine with losing is more important to her than the rights of students. It’s always nice to know where these things stand on the overall hierarchy.

Now Ms. DeVos, I know it’s not my place to give you advice—since you’re apparently the nation’s leading expert on education—but you might want to consider making future decisions based more on the educational aspects of the issue rather than the political. Just a thought, though.

At this point, most Education Department heads would throw in the towel and call it a day, but DeVos was just getting warmed up for round two.

DeVos also managed to anger teachers at Jefferson Academy in Washington by saying they were in “receive mode.” According to the quote found in the Washington Post, DeVos complimented the teachers, saying they were “pouring their heart and soul into their classrooms and their students.” However, she then proceeded to say that these teachers are in “receive mode” and they are “waiting to be told what to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child.”

So just to review, Betsy DeVos has already advocated for the abolishment of her department, allowed students’ rights to be revoked and undermined the American people’s faith in some of our teachers’ ability to teach. She also landed herself in controversy with comments about traditionally black colleges.

After a meeting with several presidents of historically black colleges and universities, DeVos complemented these colleges for being “pioneers when it comes to school choice.” This sparked much public outcry: Since due to Jim Crow laws and segregation, these historically black colleges were oftentimes the only school choice available to African-American students of that era.

That’s been the first couple of weeks of DeVos’s Education Department. Whether you think she has been successful or not, we all owe our thanks to the 50 men and women of the United States Senate who showed the world that anyone could be the head of the Department of Education.

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